Friday, November 14, 2003

Neville LongBottom:
Conundrums a Plenty

Stan lept on the pavement beside them.
"What didja call Neville, Minister?" he said excitedly.
Fudge, a portly little man in a long, pinstripped cloak, looked cold and exhausted.
"Neville?" he repeated frowning. "This is Harry Potter."
"I knew it!" Stan shouted gleefully. "Ern! Ern! Guess 'oo Neville is, Ern! 'E's 'Arry Potter! I can see 'is scar!"
Book III, Page 37, UK Edition

In light of book five, this passage may have more significance than can be found on the first read. Neville Longbottom and Harry Potter have a lot in common. They both are separated from their parents because of Lord Voldemort. They both were born in July and could have fulfilled the first part of the Trelawney's prophecy. They both attend Hogwarts, were sorted into Gryffindor, and have had to live much of their lives in secrecy. Harry hides his scar just as Neville hides his inward scars.

Yet, the two boys are also very different. Voldemort chose Harry to fulfill the prophecy, not Neville. Harry has been hailed a hero and marked a lunatic, and as such has always found himself in the spotlight. Neville has been labeled an inept squib-like wizard, and as such has found himself in the background and forgotten. In this light, it does make sense why Rowling would have Harry first think of Neville's name. Neville is the one that could just have easily been marked, but was spared the lightning bolt scar. Neville is the one that ran away from his problems by locking them deep inside, without a spotlight to try and bring them to the surface. This mirrors exactly what Harry's trip on the Knight Bus is an attempt to do, runaway from his own past and avoid the spotlight.

This is only a beginning to understanding Neville. He does hold a lot of secrets, and I am sure that more will be revealed in future books. Why is he sometimes inept, and other times exceptional? What circumstances surrounded the torture of his parents? Why is Neville so forgetful? How did his grandpa die? What significance does Trevor, the gum wrappers, and the cactus plant (mimbulus mimblitonia) have for this Gryffindor? Why was it Harry to try and get revenge on LeStrange, and not Neville? The answers to these questions may hold a large key to deciphering the entire series.

First, let's start with what we do know about the young Longbottom. We know that he is Harry's age, an extremely forgetful boy, born at the end of July, the son of two aurors, under the care of his grandmother, inept at potions when Snape is watching, talented at herbology, and a courageous individual. Yet, there are much deeper things we also know. We know that he started to gain power in book five at an exceptional rate. Why? Was it because of LeStrange's escape, or something else? We know that he can keep his mind when in danger. For instance, Neville has enough wits about him to check Hermione's pulse when everyone else feared she was dead, and he was the one to call McGonagall when Harry was ill from visions. We also know that he can be good at things when given the chance. I'm interested to see what OWLs he receives. Without Snape looking over his shoulder, he might have excelled in potions. We also know that his mom gives him gum wrappers whenever he visits her in the hospital, the annual Christmas visit. Rowling has also gone to great lengths to show us that his toad constantly wants to run away. But what does all of this mean? I believe that all of this information has to connect somehow. Neville is not only a well-drawn character, he is a continuing support throughout all the books. What does he know that he has yet to share? What is his characters ultimate purpose in the saga? I will now do my best to address these questions.

I think the key to answering the questions is to decipher why Neville's memory is so poor. From what I can tell, there are only three possible answers presented to us. 1.) Neville is simply cursed with forgetfulness. It's not a potion, part of trauma, or anything else. It is just his lot in life. 2.) As a child, Neville was traumatized by something he saw or discovered. His bad memory is part of an attempt to cover this up. 3.) Someone doesn't want Neville to remember something important and either gave him too large a dose of a forgetfulness potion, or gave him some object (with the potion) that continues to hinder his memory.

The first choice, is the easiest to conclude. We all know of people that have forgetfulness problems, and Neville is just like them. Yet, I hesitate in accepting this answer. Rowling has gone to great lengths to emphasize his memory problems. Why? Would she bother with this just because it aids strong characterization. I doubt it. Ever since Neville was sorted into Gryffindor, we have known that there was more to this kid than meets the eye. In book four, we begin to learn a little about his parents. In book five, we learn even more as we watch Neville progress amazingly. Clearly, Rowling has a purpose for this character. Clearly, there is much more to learn about him. Therefore, I don't buy that this inconspicuous attribute of his is what it simply looks like.

The second and third choices both come down to the same idea, Neville knows more than he is letting on, or he may even remember. I am inclined to believe that this came from some traumatic event in his life. Perhaps, it occurred when his parents were tortured, or when his grandpa died. Harry wasn't able to see thestrals because he couldn't register his parents death because of his age. However, Neville's case may be different. Remember, LeStrange was torturing Mr. and Mrs. Longbottom because she thought they knew where Voldemort was hiding "at the present moment" (Book Four, Page 595, US edition). We also know that this present moment was later than the other trials that Harry had seen. "Harry looked up at Crouch and saw that he looked gaunter and grayer than ever before. A nerve was twitching in his temple." (pg. 394). The truth is that we don't know how late in Neville's life this happened. Probably early, yes, but how early? Neville may have been old enough to register what happened. Did he have information nobody wanted him to share? Why did four Death Eaters think that his parents knew Voldemort's location? Was he there to watch his parents get tortured and has been suppressing it since? It's all very curious.

Now that we know that Mad Eye Moody throughout most of book four was really Crouch Jr., his interactions with Neville seem curious. Did he get a satisfaction out of watching Neville's face when he performed the Cruciatus Curse on the spiders? Was Neville terrified because it showed him what they went through, or terrified because it was reopening the memories of what they had gone through?

Personally, I do believe that Neville holds information necessary to helping Harry defeat Voldemort. He may not be the one, but his information is required for Harry to vanquish the Dark Lord. Furthermore, I believe that however Neville got this information, it traumatized him. More than likely he suppressed it. However, it is possible that someone doesn't want him to remember. It is possible that someone used a forgetfulness potion on him. (The kids made one once in Snape's class). It could have been so potent that it caused Neville to have his current problems, or it could even be associated with an object Neville carries around. However, I'm more inclined to think that it was trauma. Trauma victims can suffer from memory problems as well as prove inept in things. In a way, the magic could have been repressed because of whatever he saw or knew.

I do think Rowling is leading us into a wrong assumption in a similar area. In Dumbledore's Army, Neville begins to excel at magic. He keeps his focus, concentrates, barely talks, but learns quickly. Harry leads us to believe this is because of LeStrange's escape and Neville must want revenge. Yet, this doesn't seem to play out. At the end of book five, it is Harry that goes for the revenge (much to my shock and horror), and not Neville. True, Neville did have the jellyleg curse on him, but still you think he would have tried and fallen, or something! If he was that determined to get revenge, surely he would have tried something, even if hopeless. Of course, we only get Harry's account. We can't know for sure that he didn't try anything. All that I'm trying to suggest is that we shouldn't take Harry's word for why Neville started to improve. In fact, the real changes in Neville may have started before LeStrange's escape.

"Harry, I know it!" someone panted from behind him, and he turned to see Neville jogging toward him. "Guess what it is? I'm actually going to be able to remember it for once-" He waved the stunted little cactus he had shown them on the train. "Mimbulus mimbletonia!"
Book Five, Page 216, US Edition

Neville, who is famous for forgetting passwords, turns things around when it is he who remembers the password, and not Harry. True, he remembers it because he owns the cactus, but the fact is he still knows it. Perhaps, this is a clue from Rowling that goes much deeper. Could it be something about this plant that is aiding Neville's exceleration in magic? We are told that the plant can do loads of things, but all we have seen it do is shoot stink sap. What else can it do? It's also interesting that this plant is so much like Neville. It's short and not much to look at, yet, it's more powerful and special than anyone gives it credit for. It is something to think about anyways.

It is hard to believe that a plant could help Neville overcome his trauma. Yet, the pieces do seem to fit together. The truth is that we know so little about Neville, all we can do is conjecture. I am anxious to see if this plays out. Was Neville traumatized? Does he have hidden information, that even he doesn't know about. "The only problem is, I can't remember what I've forgotten," he tells us. What has he forgotten? I can't wait to find out.

Before I go, I just want to emphasize that his grandfather's death may have been the event that caused the trauma, and not his parents. Are they connected? Also, what significance can be found in a toad that is constantly trying to run away? Is it symbolic for Neville's memory as a tool to constantly run away? Is there something more to it? Also, what do the gum wrappers mean to Neville? Love? A sign that his mom remembers at least his face (she only gives them to him)? This little boy is almost as much an enigma as Professor Snape!

Neville may not be Harry; he may not be the one, but he is still a large key to the story. He may not have a lightning bolt on his head, but he does have inward scars. When Harry ran away from the Knight bus, he pretended to be Neville, because Neville lacks his fame. For this reason, they are the Harry Potter books and not the Neville Longbottom books. Harry doesn't even want Neville's help most of the time. He admits in book five that he would never have chosen Neville to accompany him to the Ministry. Yet, Neville does accompany him, and Neville and him are the last left standing. Why Neville? One has to wonder just how much Harry and Neville will have to combine knowledge and power in future books. This is going to be interesting.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Editorial Published on Mugglenet!

Good news is that Mugglenet published on of my editorials! Do Snape and Harry Have to Reconcile.

For all of those waiting for a Neville post, I tell you it is coming. I went to my english teacher and a few others to help generate ideas. It's going to mainly be on him and forgetfulness. Even if not one on Neville, I will have a post up sometime this week!

For those of you who are christian, pray for me! My life is crazy and needs direction!